The 8 Best Triceps Exercises for Thick Arms

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These are the best 8 triceps exercises to build massive mass in your arms. 

Thick arms are manly, and nothing screams masculine more than robust and massive triceps. That’s because your triceps make up two-thirds of your arms. Therefore, it’s critical to focus more on your triceps than your biceps to build burly arms. There are various exercises, but this article will cover the 8 best triceps exercises.

Best Triceps Exercises

  • Bench Dips
  • Dips
  • Triceps Dumbbell Kickback
  • Seated Triceps Press
  • Skull Crusher
  • Cable Triceps Extension Pushdown
  • Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension
  • Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension

Bench Dips

As the name implies, bench dips are dips performed on a bench. All the resistance you need for this movement is your body weight. Your triceps will have to work hard to push your body weight. And you’ll be able to get a greater range of motion since the height of the bench will allow you to dip down lower.

Benefits of Bench Dips

  • It allows you a greater range of motion for your triceps.
  • This exercise tests your ability to lift and move your body weight.
  • You’ll be able to perform higher reps on this movement, which builds more endurance in your triceps.

How to Do Bench Dips

Face perpendicular to a bench, put your palms down on the bench with your fingers firmly gripping the edge of the bench (glutes facing the ground). For beginners, place your feet on the floor with your hips flexed at a 90-degree angle. Advanced lifters can have their legs straight out with their heels on the ground for support.

Dips

Dips test your relative strength (strength for your body weight) and will challenge your triceps ability to lift your entire body weight. This movement is a compound exercise that will also target your shoulders and chest muscle. And you can add extra weight by attaching a load to a belt, increasing the resistance you lift.

Benefits of Dips

  • Dips are a compound movement that targets your chest and shoulders too.
  • You can attach weight to a belt to lift more than your body weight.
  • It will get you strong for your size.

How to Do Dips

Grab parallel bars, jump up, and extend your arms to get into the starting position. Next, lower your body down until your arms create a 90-degree angle, then push your body up.

Triceps Dumbbell Kickback

Triceps dumbbell kickback emphasizes the lateral head of your triceps, the most visible of the three heads. It’s a great isolation movement to add volume to your triceps. It also increases your shoulder and arm stability and flexibility.

Benefits of Triceps Dumbbell Kickback

  • This exercise isolates your most visible tricep head.
  • It increases your shoulder and arm stability.

How to Do Dumbbell Kickback

Bend over and use a bench or dumbbell rack for support with one arm. Then, with your back straight, bring the other arm to your side holding a dumbbell, keep your elbows stable, and use your triceps to “kick” the weight back.

Seated Triceps Press

A seated triceps press is performed on a triceps pushdown machine. The machine will allow you to use heavier loads than other triceps exercises. Plus, it’s safer than free weights since it’s a machine.

Benefits of Seated Triceps Press

  • It’s safer than free-weight triceps exercises.
  • The machine facilitates a more significant load than other triceps isolation movements.

How to Do Seated Triceps Press

Find a triceps pushdown machine and sit down with your back and feet in points of contact with the bench and foot support/ground. Push the weight down until your arms are fully extended, and then bring the weight back up until the machine plates touch.

Skull Crusher

The skull crusher is arguably the most effective triceps exercise. That’s because the skull crusher is done using a barbell, allowing you to use a heavy load with free weights. It’s best to perform this exercise with an EZ bar to comfort and protect your wrists.

Benefits of Skull Crusher

  • Skull crushers allow you to use a heavier load with free weights to gain size and strength in your triceps.
  • It challenges your core stability.

How to Do Skull Crusher

Lie supine on a bench and extend an EZ bar over your head. While keeping your elbows stable, use your triceps to lower the barbell to your forehead, then extend the barbell back to the starting position.

Cable Triceps Extension Pushdown

Cable triceps extension pushdown is an excellent movement for keeping tension on your triceps through each degree of the extension since it’s performed on a cable machine. Grasping the cable will improve grip strength and engage your core, back, and shoulders.

Benefits of Cable Triceps Extension Pushdown

  • This movement engages your core, back, and shoulders.
  • It keeps the tension the same throughout the entirety of the exercise.
  • This exercise strengthens your grip strength.

How to Do Cable Triceps Extension Pushdown

Set a cable machine to its highest point. Make sure the extension is a small cable bar. Grab the bar with a pronated grip and push down until your arms are fully extended; keep your elbows locked. Lastly, bring the barbell back up until the plates touch for a full triceps extension.

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Dumbbell overhead triceps extensions target all three triceps heads and allow a full range of motion. It also increases your shoulder and elbow stability. Plus, you can use decent weight since you’re using two hands.

Benefits of Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

  • This exercise gives you a full range of motion with moderate weight to target your triceps.
  • It increases your shoulder and elbow stability.
  • This movement activates all three triceps heads.

How to Do Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Sit on a bench with an upright posture. Lift a dumbbell over your head with both hands, grasping the top end of the dumbbell (dumbbell perpendicular to the floor). Lower the dumbbell until your triceps are as far down as they can go comfortably, then fully extend the dumbbell back overhead.

Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension

Cable rope overhead triceps extension targets the long head of your triceps and is an exercise that requires focus to improve your mind-muscle connection. The cables provide constant tension on your triceps through the entire range of motion. And this study  concluded that overhead triceps extension builds more muscle than pushdowns (1).

Benefits of Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension 

  • It keeps the tension the same on your triceps.
  • This exercise targets the long head of your triceps.
  • Cable rope overhead triceps extension improves your mind-muscle connection for more significant muscle growth.

How to Do Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension 

Put a cable machine at its highest point with a rope attachment. Grab the rope, and turn the opposing away in a staggered stance for support. Then, bend over slightly and extend the cable rope overhead. Next, return the cable rope down to the starting position.

About the Triceps

The triceps muscle is the antagonist of the biceps muscles on your arm. And it’s composed of three heads: medial, lateral, and long, which explains why your triceps make up ⅔ thirds of your arm. Your triceps is responsible for extending your arms. And different triceps movements will target other heads of your triceps more, depending on the exercises (2). For example, cable overhead triceps extension targets more of your long head due to the elevation.

You use your triceps on pushing movements (anything that extends your elbows). And it plays a crucial role in big compounds chest movements, such as barbell bench press, since it’s a secondary muscle targeted during pressing exercises.

How to Get Your Triceps Stronger

It would be best to get your triceps stronger as you would for bigger muscle groups like your chest–increase the weight you lift as often as possible. However, since your triceps is a smaller muscle group, you won’t be able to advance in weight as fast. Therefore, you’ll want to focus on higher reps and more volume via more sets to increase the size and strength of your triceps since you’ll be using lighter weight.

We recommend you perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps for your triceps exercises if you’re doing a split routine that includes a bigger muscle group and tricep movements at the end. So, for example, if you’re training your chest and triceps one day, you’ll perform two triceps exercises after your chest movements and do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps for each exercise. And if you have a separate day just for arms, then you can do three triceps exercises (and three biceps exercises) and perform three sets each in the 12-15 rep range.

Rules to Follow 

Keep Your Elbows Fixed

It’s easy to swing your arms on triceps movements to use heavier weight, but that takes the tension off your triceps. Using a lighter weight with your elbow in a fixed position better targets your triceps.

Warm-Up

Although your triceps is a smaller muscle group compared to a bigger muscle group like your chest, it’s still important to do a thorough warm-up to increase your triceps strength on exercises and prevent injury. If you’re training your chest on the same day, the chest exercises you do will act as a warm-up since you use your triceps as a secondary muscle for pushing movements. However, if you’re training your triceps on separate days, we recommend you perform 2-3 sets with lighter weight before using heavier weights on your first triceps exercise.

References

  1. Maeo, S., Wu, Y., Huang, M., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Kanehisa, H., & Isaka, T. (2022). Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. European journal of sport science, 1–26. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279
  2. Kholinne, E., Zulkarnain, R. F., Sun, Y. C., Lim, S., Chun, J. M., & Jeon, I. H. (2018). The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica52(3), 201–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005
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